what to do when your kid just doesn’t ‘get it’

what to do when your kid just doesn't 'get it' | question from reader and answered by @teachmama

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

I admit that I am the absolute worst with emails. The worst.when your kid just doesn't get it | teachmama.com

But I’m trying to be better.

I’ve got thousands of emails just sitting there in my inbox, and I rarely respond because I’m always busy.

And I’m so far behind that I don’t even want to go there because there’s no end in sight.

But lately I have been tackling a handful of emails each week. And it makes me feel so much better to be able to connect in this way to the readers who have become my good friends over time.

Today, one email stuck out.

And I spent a good bit of time answering, and then I felt like I had answered it before, so I looked back and not one, not two, but three other people have written to me in the past few weeks about their kids struggling with reading for unknown reasons.

So I thought I’d share my response. (And the gal who emailed said it was totally cool to do so.)

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • What to Do When Your Kid Just Doesn’t Get It:

note from reader

Subject : Struggling readers

Message : So…..what do you do when your kid just doesn’t get it? My [son] is in 3rd grade and he’s super depressed because he’s in the lowest reading group (haven’t confirmed that with the teacher, but kids know, don’t they? And given who else he says is in his group, I know, too.) and he doesn’t get to do the pull-out GT activities that his friends do.

His reading is okay, but when it comes to spelling, it’s terrible–large letters, sloppy, no punctuation or capitalization, many misspelled words, can’t get the letters on the page.

We’ve had him tested and the doc says it’s phonological processing. He doesn’t qualify for an IEP or 504 and the teachers last year dismissed the doc’s findings all together. He’s been doing a reading tutoring program for the past year. But feeling really frustrated with the school and teachers. Any advice?

**************

my response

Oh, [friend]. I’m sorry he’s struggling. It’s so hard–for you and for him. Believe me, I get it. Thank you for reaching out.

My advice is this:
1. meet with the teacher. talk to him/her about your concerns, and ask what you can do at home. Maybe she’ll give you some insight into strategies that have worked for other students or hand you some resources that could be helpful.

when kids don't get it school  teachmama.com

2. read with him every night. Seriously. You read out loud to him. No pressure for him to read to you. Just get him back into being excited about reading, even if that means you have to pry open your tired eyes at 8pm to read to him with energy and excitement (said from the mom who FELL ASLEEP last night while Cora was reading her book out loud to me before bed and still feels guilty about it today). Try Harry Potter. IT ROCKS. OR try silly Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Or try Magic Treehouse to start with. . . Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is SO GOOD and great for read alouds.

3. play on his interests. He likes (gag!) Pokemon? Find Pokemon books and READ them! He loves Minecraft? There are great Minecraft books on the market now (finally!), and there are books on everything from Skylanders to Star Wars to LEGOS to chess. Do some research. Surround him w/ reading material about stuff he totally digs. Magazines totally count. Get him a subscription to a magazine for the holidays–get everyone a subscription to their favorite magazine. Be excited when it comes in the mail even if you have to fake it. Dance up to the door w/ it and then make it a treat to read it. He’ll catch on. I promise.

when kids don't get it interests  teachmama.com

4. talk about reading. Not directly, in a super boring way, but do it casually. Talk about the books you’re reading for pleasure (start doing it if you’re not already!); talk about what you read in the newspaper; talk about books he’s reading in Guided Reading and what the media teacher read to him on media day. Just a simple, ‘Hey listen to this!’ . . . or ‘Can you believe that. .. . ‘ is great. The Washington Post Kids Post is super for finding daily bits of fun stuff for kids to read. Or find the National Geographic Kids app– strange and amazing facts? something like that–my kids LOVE it.

5. make reading a family affair. Instead of plopping on a movie on Sunday afternoon or instead of letting the kids zone out in front of electronics, have a family reading date. Pop popcorn, make hot chocolate, and make a fire. Everyone grabs a book and reads in the living room–even if it’s only an hour. Then kind of talk about what you were reading. Or if that’s too hard, you and your partner (or your mom/ dad if they’re close) or sister or friend take turns reading children’s books to the kids. Each kid picks two, and you read them aloud like a silly little old-school read aloud during preschool circle time. Do it. They’ll love it.

when kids don't get it consistent  teachmama.com

Hope this helps. I would love to hear how it goes, and just know this: you are not alone. I should probably even just post this whole answer as a blog post, because I’m asked it more often than you know. . . Hmmmm. Maybe?

Oh, and don’t forget this: hang in there and KEEP UP THE ROUTINE. I’m not yelling at you, I’m just keeping it all caps because it’s that important. It won’t make a bleep of a difference if you do this for one week or one day. Set small goals: reading aloud at night for two weeks. Then four weeks. It will make a difference–but the secret is in the consistency.

You got this. And so does he.

*hugs!* and thank you for reading.

**************

What do you think? How would you have answered her question?
Do let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Do you have a question that’s literacy related? I’m happy to give it a stab if you want to hit me with an email: amy@teachmama.com
If I can’t answer it, I’ll find someone who can!

 

fyi: affiliate links used in this post

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills

video game for improving decision-making skills @QuandaryGame | teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

I’m always on the hunt for worthwhile ways to sneak in some fun and learning into my kids’ days.

And though I’m super careful about screen time, I’m rather impressed with a game that I’ve recently been introduced to: Quandary.

Not surprisingly, my little game-testers were eager to try this digital game that is structured to develop ethical thinking skills.

It’s interesting. It’s different.

And it really gets kids thinking.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Quandary–Video Game for Improving Decision-Making Skills:

 I, too, was a little skeptical when it came to looking at this game.

I wondered, how on earth could a video game really deal with decision-making and critical thinking and ethical issues? 

But this one really, truly does.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

Fast facts:

  • Quandary is a game that provides learning experiences that let kids practice distinguishing the difference between facts and opinions.
  • It is a game that allows kids to explore decision-making.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

  • It’s a game that gives kids a chance to learn about a problem, hear situations from various community members’ perspective, reflect on those opinions, and then decide on the best possible solution.
  • It’s a game that aims to support not learning of new content but learning of new skills.
  • And it’s a game that provides a ton of discussion between adults and kids.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

Designed for players ages 8 and older, there is a lot of reading with Quandary, truth be told.

Players read the scenario first to understand the problem.  The layout is similar to a comic book or graphic novel, and many kids today are quite comfortable with this genre.

The cool thing, from a Reading Specialist’s perspective, is that when players click the text, the text is read aloud.  The combination of visual and audio reading is a huge support–even for older readers.

 

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

Owen, my forever gamer, was big into trying this game, so one evening he, Cora, and I sat down together to look at it.

It was a lot for Cora, who is 7 years old.  It was a lot for Owen, at 9 years old, but he was in the mood for a challenge and was really willing to read through each scenario and description and make the right decision.

The first time he played, we worked together to figure out the steps and try to earn points for organizing statements of fact, opinion, and solution. We talked about the best ways to organize characters into groups of people who would agree with our decision and those who would disagree.

 

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

My friends, Quandary is not a game to start at 8:30 pm on a school night. It’s a game to play when your brain is sharp and your kids are in the mood for a little brain challenge.

Overall, Owen liked that:

  • the levels were fun;
  • there were different episodes to choose from;
  • the game helped him with problem-solving skills.

Owen wishes that:

  • there were more episodes (currently there are 3);
  • that it might be a little easier–it could be hard for younger kids.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills

I liked that:

  • the game is free (yay! free is good!);
  • the game is totally different–a new and unique concept for kids;
  • the game is created to be used alongside kids–super starting point for discussion;
  • the game moved areas in the brain that are often dormant for kids.

The website covers a ton of FAQs for parents, and a very comprehensive FAQ section which I definitely had before exploring the platform. It’s also got a boatload of resources for teachers that would be super helpful for getting this game into the classroom. The possibilities are there, and I’d love to see this kind of discussion-based game be used more in that way.

Totally worth checking out. I’d love to hear what you think.

Think you’ll check it out? Let me know!

Have questions? Ask away! Or chat with the Quandary folks at @quandarygame on Twitter and or Quandary Facebook page.

 

fyi: This post reflects a collaboration with the Women Online and Quandary. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three gamers.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

sponsored post

 

 

 

 

Magic is one of those things that totally intrigues kids.read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading
They want to know how the tricks work, they want to know why the tricks work, and they want to know as much as they can to trick their friends and family.
So when I saw that Melissa & Doug had a brand, new Magician Role Play Set, I knew that my kids would love it since they’re longtime fans of the other Magic Sets.
Cora learned first-hand recently how much time and effort magic takes to really get those tricks down.
But before long, she had our family–and her buddies–wondering how she was pulling that rabbit out of her hat.
Reading magic tricks gave her the chance to do some cool, fun, and totally focused reading.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Read Magic Tricks–Cool, Fun Focused Reading:

The teeny little magic instruction booklet that comes with this Magician Role Play Set is the perfect size for little hands, and the challenge of reading the text and following the instructions was just the right level for young readers.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

This kind of activity takes reading to a different level. No longer are kids reading for pleasure; rather, they’re reading to make something happen. They’re reading to follow directions and understand the actions they must take in order to trick their audience.

It’s not easy.

And we had to work a bit together to read the text, practice, and re-read to make sure we understood.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

The tricks are simple: pulling a rabbit out of the hat, making a coin disappear, and making a wand float in air.

And in that sense, I thought they were great for early readers like Cora.

After a lot of practice, she was able to perform.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

Brady and I loved the show!

And because she’s tricky like that, she was quick to take her show on the road. . .

. . . even if the road was only her brother’s soccer practice.  It didn’t matter. The kids loved it, and everyone wanted their turn with the cape, hat, and magic wand.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading | teachmama.com

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading | teachmama.com

Super cute.

The kids absolutely loved the challenge of reading the magic trick how-to book so that they can put on a magic show for others.

Huge thanks to Melissa & Doug for creating products that get our kids reading and thinking and sharing the excitement with others!

 read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

melissa doug blog ambassador button

 

fyi: I wrote this post as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program.   Melissa & Doug has long created rockstar products that nurture creativity and thought in our children, which is why I am so proud to be a part of this program.

As always, my opinions and ideas are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.  Affiliate links are used in this post which means that any time you click and purchase using these links, we get a teeny, tiny percentage which helps run this site and keep the content free for you.

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

 

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning | teachmama.comI’ve always tried to make a big deal about certain text features when we see them in fiction that we’re reading, especially bold and italics.

I’m cool like that.

There’s something about bold and italics that make me feel like they give us a teeny glimpse into what the author really wants us to understand in the text.  Or maybe I just can hear the characters’ voices more clearly when I can see what they would be emphasizing during conversations.

Or maybe I just tend to use them a  lot so I’m happy when I see them on someone else’s page.

Whatever it is, Cora and I had an interesting conversation about italics last night before bed, and I thought it was worth sharing.

If we had this chat, certainly other parents are having the italics chat as well.

. .  . or maybe we’re just a strange family.

Either way, it’s worth taking a look at if you do any read-alouds with your readers at home.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Understanding Italics in Fiction–Text Features and Meaning:

Cora was reading a book to me when it all started.

It was a book from her Media Center that she picked up yesterday called The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches, by Alice Low, illustrated by Jane Manning. Very cute book geared toward readers in grades 2-4, about a little witch who is afraid of her two older, bossy and nasty sisters until she discovers her own magic one Halloween night.

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

 

Like I try to do during read-alouds, I let Cora’s first time reading through the italics and ignoring them go.

She didn’t alter the meaning of the text; she just ignored the text feature. It’s all good.

But when she finished the book and we were talking about it, I said, Man, I liked how fluently you read that story. You really do a good job of paying attention to the punctuation, especially when people are speaking. I showed her a few places where she did this, pointing out specific examples.

One thing I’d love for you to do next time you read it, though, is keep your eyes open for certain text features–like italics. I personally love italics and bold when I see it in books. Do you want to know why?

She nodded. understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

 

I like italics and bold because it kind of lets you know what the author wants the reader to emphasize.

Like here: (I flipped back to the beginning of the book.) I read, ‘Her oldest sister, Polly knew everything’.  See how ‘knew’ is in italics? The author wants us to say it with more emotion to make a point–that the oldest sister had a brain full of information.

Cora stopped me. She closed the book. 

Confidently, she declared: Well I don’t care about italics. The author is not the boss of me. 

 

understanding italics in fiction: text features and meaning

 

I honestly felt like I was in a bad sitcom.  I have not a clue where she ever heard that phrase, but not much surprises me from my tiniest.

Well that’s fine, I said. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to when it comes to reading. We really just want you to find good books that you enjoy and like reading. But the thing with italics and bold is–that they help ‘complete’ the story. Sure, you can read anything on the page–the words–and look at the illustrations–but if you ask me, text features like italics just take it a step further. They take the reading up a notch. Like beginners may just read the words, but experts may read it all–italics, bold, the whole thing. Because they want to get the whole picture. 

I showed her two other places in the text where the author used italics, focusing on the part when little witch Wendy was sad in her bed, hugging her broomstick. She says, ‘At least I have you. . . you give me a little witch power’.

We talked a bit about that statement and how it sounds different when a person reads it without emphasizing ‘you’ and with emphasizing ‘you’.

She wouldn’t budge. I didn’t convince her of the power of italics. . . but at least I got her thinking.  I hope.

 

Is this skill imperative for young readers’ understanding of a text? Must they be able to respond to every text feature they encounter in fiction or non-fiction texts?

Honestly, it’s not the hill I want to die on. (Notice deliberate use of italics, please.)

If kids are decoding the text in a book like this, and if they understand and appreciate the story, it’s all good. However, Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, grade 2 requires that students understand how text features are used in nonfiction (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.5).

And if you jump on over to the fiction side of CCSS, you’ll see that students need to acknowledge different points of view of characters which they can express by reading in a different voice for each character when reading aloud (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.6)–so this is where understanding the text features in order to best understand the characters would come into play. Or when ‘integrating knowledge and ideas’ students have to use information gained from illustrations or words in a text . . . in order to demonstrate understanding of characters, plot, or setting (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7). So does this count as ‘information gained from words in a text’? Hmmmm. 

So there you have it. They’ve got to understand how text features like this are used, but if they choose not to read it that way, it’s their choice. Kids just have to show that they understand what’s going on. And clearly, my kiddo gets that the author isn’t the boss of her.

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

halloween word search

halloween word search teachmama.com

originally published 10/26/11 but republished today for you!

 

halloween word search  teachmama.com

Homework time over here this week and last has been a little spooky.

Just a bit.

Cora and Owen have been rockin the Halloween Word Search, which I made last year for Owen when he was on his crazy word search kick and which I made not a single change to this year.

Owen is much more into the ole word search halloween, but Cora did give it a go twice, never actually finding all of the words–or even caring that she didn’t. She did, however, love the idea that she had ‘work’ to do just like Maddy and Owen at homework time.

So while they worked, she worked. . .

Here’s the skinny:

  • Halloween Word Search: I didn’t get a chance to edit the document and that was actually fine because, like I said, Cora gave it a go for a bit but wasn’t in love with it.

It could be that it was too much for her–too many small letters all jumbled together–or that word searches just aren’t her game.  Perhaps a bit of both.

 

halloween word search  teachmama.com

halloween word search  teachmama.com

She was very excited at first, when I sat down next to her and read through each of the words she had to find.  I drew tiny pictures of each, right next to the word to help her remember each.

We talked about strategies for hunting for each word, like:

  • going line by line and searching for the first letter, then looking for the second letter once you find the first;
  • using a piece of paper to help guide you as you look at each line of letters;
  • saying the first letter over and over in your head so you remember; and
  • looking for double letters.

halloween word search  teachmama.com

word search halloween

We talked about different ways of identifying each word, like:

  • using a highlighter to highlight the word;
  • using a different color to highlight each word;
  • using water colors to paint each word;
  • circling each letter of the word;
  • circling the whole word.

She searched a bit, choosing to use her Hello Kitty pen o’many colors, but when Maddy and Owen were finished with their work, she was finished with hers.  She asked to finish her word search the next day, but she decided that coloring her tiny Mickey Mouse coloring pages was what she needed to do instead.

I bet if there were jewels in the word search, or sparkles or glitter, she’d be more game. . .

And that’s it–just a little bit of literacy-focused Halloween Word Search fun during homework time.  Happy Searching!

Want a few more fun halloween ideas?

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read | kindle ebooks for reluctant readers teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

 

get kids to read | kindle for reluctant readers teachmama.com

These days, with school in full swing and cool ‘big guy’ neighbors across the street and a travel soccer team to keep him busy, my boy isn’t that big a fan of reading.

He’s into Pokemon (ugh). He’s wicked smart on Words With Friends.  And he spends a good amount of his free time thinking about how he can eke time out of his Screen Time Cards for Minecraft and AnimalJam.

Honestly, he’s one of the coolest kids I know. And lately, he just hasn’t been digging reading.

I get it. Often changes of schedules and shifts in season mean that my kids’ interests will ebb and flow, but Owen hasn’t deliberately reached for books for quite a few weeks.

It makes me a bit nervous, though, knowing that reading habits often change when kids hit middle school. A few short years, and he’s there.

One thing that’s helped a bit with Owen’s  little reading ‘dry spell’ is giving him a chance to read books digitally. eBooks.

It’s one way we get our kids to read–and really enjoy reading. Kindle eBooks.

And I truly think that in this day and age, a healthy mix of digital and traditional books is quite the norm–or it really should be–if we want our kids to grow as readers in the digital age.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Get Kids to Read–Kindle eBooks for Reluctant Readers:

Owen’s not the only one who is game for reading books on our Kindle.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers | teachmama.com

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

Maddy and Cora love it, too, so we often have to resort to figuring out whose day it is so that there’s no major battle.

I think there’s something about the simple holding of the Kindle device that I think my kids love. They love how light it is, how sleek it is, and how easy it is to navigate.

For reluctant readers, especially, Kindle eBooks are great for:

  • ease of use. Kids can find books in seconds.
  • organization.  My kids each have their own little collections.
  • convenience.  They can pick up where they last left off without worrying about finding a lost bookmark.  They can touch the corner of a page, and the bookmark is there–even able to sync to Kindle apps on all of their devices.
  • focus. Especially with chapter books, there’s not a whole lot of distracting fluff or add-ons in Kindle eBooks.
  • quality. Kids can long touch a word, and its definition appears along with the Wikipedia definition and translation option. I like this feature.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

Kindle eBooks are also great for:

  • skill-building.  Long touch a word, and kids can highlight or make notes about a word or passage. Upon finishing a book or chapter, they can look back at all of the notes they made and share them via email.
  • increased comprehension.  Many books have the option of adding professional narration to the text which helps emerging and struggling readers better understand what fluent reading should sound like.
  • online safety.  The Parental Controls on Kindles are super, and the Kindle FreeTime piece is a huge bonus.  With Kindle FreeTime, I can assign a separate user for each of my kids, put books on their shelf, and make sure that when they’re in bed reading at night, that’s really what they’re doing.
  • variety. I’m a huge fan of the Kindle Unlimited which gives you a ton of free books each month. For a small fee (cheaper if you’re a member of Amazon Prime), you can score a boatload of books for every member of the family. We’ve had it for a month now, and we’ve really been happy with it.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

The bottom line is that kids need a balance. They need a healthy combination of print and digital books to keep them interested and keep them savvy with both mediums.  But if a kid’s balking when it comes to reading and needs a kick-start, Kindle eBooks can do it.

As Junko Yokota and William H. Teale state, in their May 2014 article in The Reading Teacher:

Let us be clear from the start that we believe that both print and digital picture books should play central roles in early childhood literacy education.   The issue
in this instance is not one versus the other, but what works well for achieving which ends in particular situations or for particular lessons.

Junko, Yokota & William H., Teale (2014). Picture Books and the Digital WorldEducators Making Informed Choices. The Reading Teeacher, 67(8), 577–585. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1262

The article goes on to explain how important it is to choose quality eBooks but how often the ‘extras’ –music, supplementary features, add-ons, etc.–upset the integrity of the story.  It was an interesting read. Though my kids are now more reading chapter books on the Kindle and are past picture books on the devices, I did like what the authors had to say.

What’s your experience with Kindle eBooks? Have they been helpful in getting your kids reading and, more importantly, wanting to read?

Let me know–I’d love to hear it!

 

 

fyi: Staples sent our family a Kindle to help in the writing of this post, but as always, opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent.  Visit Staples.com for more on the Kindle. 

Some links are affiliate links.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches MONSTER

post contains affiliate links

 
recipe reading for kids fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches MONSTER

Ever since my kids were tiny, I’ve let them play around in the kitchen.

It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s been fun. And now, though they’re still learning, at 10, 9, and 7 years old, my kids are pretty skilled at cracking eggs, measuring ingredients, and navigating the wilds of cookie baking and meal-making.

Recently, Cora has been into some serious snack preparation.

Not only has this benefitted our bellies; what I’ve also been reminded of is how important recipe reading is for kids. 

Kids are decoding important functional, everyday words. They’re reading informational text. They’re analyzing words and phrases in a text and interpreting what it all means.

And the coolest part of the whole recipe reading for kids? They’re having fun and learning in the kitchen.

Cora rocked out some serious recipe reading and Monster-Sandwich making in our kitchen, and it was a blast for all of us.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Recipe Reading for Kids–Fun Learning in the Kitchen with Monster Sandwiches:

Cora used one of the recipe books I pulled out for our Tabletop Surprises: Favorite All-Time Recipes Silly Snacks (2004).

She flipped through the book, and she immediately declared that she was going to make each snack.  I knew she couldn’t because most of the recipes required something we didn’t have in our pantry.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

So I encouraged her to use a sticky note to bookmark the snacks she wanted to make. And she could make one snack each day.

We need to make sure we have all of the ingredients, I told her. And this is the only way. You choose what you’d like to make, and then we’ll make a grocery list. 

So she did.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

It was a weekend, so Monster Sandwiches would be our lunch.

We worked together making a grocery list, and then we hit the store.  It went surprisingly well, I think because she was focused and knew her recipe would be our lunch. She was totally psyched.

When it came to actually preparing to read the recipe, we did what every chef should do first: we read the ingredients and put them out on the counter.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

Then Cora took the lead and read through each step, starting with opening rolls and spreading them with butter.

Step two required a layering of cold cuts, tomato and cucumber slices, and then finally making the monster tongue.

Though Monster Sandwiches are basically just a cold cut sandwich, it didn’t matter.  The simple 3-step recipe had a few crazy and exciting parts, and Cora loved it.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

The photo in the book helped her as well, and that’s half the fun of being a chef–comparing the photo to your masterpiece and making changes where you see fit.

Hands down, the sweet gherkin ‘horns’ and black olive eyes were a super-cool part of this recipe, and little hands needed a bit of help in securing them.

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

Recipe reading for kids is a great way of sneaking in some reading and learning in the kitchen, for so many reasons.  Here are a few of our ‘learning in the kitchen’ posts:

Just a few years ago, we realized that Maddy was not reading closely at all–she was skimming during reading–so recipe reading really helped get her back on track. You can’t glaze over steps in a recipe; you can’t glaze over ingredients, or you’ll end up with something quite unlike what you set out to make.

Maddy and I had to have a serious ‘skimming vs reading’ conversation, and baking helped us through it.

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

How do you incorporate learning in the kitchen? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

 

fyi: affiliate links used in this post–check out the books I recommend below

 

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers: make it a date

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers teachmama.com

We’re back in business. nighttime reading with elementary schoolers | teachmama.com

School’s in session, and we’re all slowly but surely trying our best to adjust to our new fall schedules.

And we’re tired.

I mean it. Tired.  Kids are tired. Parents are tired. Everyone’s tired.

I know it will get easier, but man.

There’s nothing like those first few Friday afternoons of the school year, especially a Friday after a five-day week.

It’s literally all I can do to keep my kids composed from school to home.  They’re beat. They’ll cry at the drop of a hat, and they’re quick to argue, pick, and prod.

So especially because it’s a new school year and we’re all picking up new routines and schedules, it’s uber-important for us to sit down with our kids and read with them before bed. 

Really. No matter how old our kids are. Even if they’re in elementary school or middle school.

If they want to read with us, we should be game for it.

Make it a date.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Nighttime Reading with Elementary Schoolers–Make it a Date:

Put a reading schedule on the calendar in ink, rotating the days you read with each kiddo. Or read together. Or do it according to books. Read one book with one kid and while you do so, the others can read silently in their rooms.

I know very few of us have kids the same age, with the same interests, who want to read the same books.

You’ll figure it out.

Bottom line is that a lot can go down during bedtime reading, so it’s way too important to give up.

Kids want to hang with us. They most often think we’re pretty cool. So that guaranteed time at night is a super time for them to open up about school, friends, concerns, and dreams.

 

3 Reasons to Read with Your Elementary Schooler Every Night:

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers | teachmama.com

*****************

Bedtime Reading Strategies: birth to independent reading:

bedtime reading strategies | scholastic

Not sure where to begin? What books to read with your crew?

No fear. Check out Maggie McGuire’s Top 100 Books that Parents Love to Read to their Kids as a start.

It can be anything. The most important thing is that you’re reading. With your littles. No matter their age.

 

What’s your favorite bedtime read? I’d love to hear it! Share it in the comments!

Cheers, and happy reading during this incredibly exciting journey!

learn with seashells: letters and sight words

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Huge thanks to an extraordinary educator and parent, Kim Vij, for guest posting for us for this final Rockstar Sunday of the summer. 

Kim is a great friend of mine, and I am continually amazed by her creativity and ideas over on the blog she writes, The Educators’ Spin on It, along with her pal, the awesome Amanda Boyarshinov. 

These two ladies are rocking it over on Pinterest with 1.5 million–yes, million!–followers. 

Go find them. And then follow them. You’ll be glad you did.

Today, Kim shares with us a fun, summertime activity great for early literacy skill-building.

Or, if you want this activity to have a mathy-spin, go right ahead and throw in some numbers. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s the skinny. . .  

  • Learn with Seashells– Letters and Sight Words, by Kim Vij:

Finding playful ways to incorporate learning and fun in the summer is something parents and teachers try to provide for kids.

We look for summer camps that kids love but still look at what they will take away from the camps as far as learning new skills, too.  One focus that we want kids to keep is their language development and reading abilities.

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Here’s a fun sight word game that is summer themed that your child will love! And it will give you a great use for all of those shells you’ve collected over the last few weeks!

(Or if you haven’t had a chance to hit the shore this year, buy your seashells on Amazon: buy seashells.)

To create, first gather some sea shells from the beach or even at your local craft store. You will need at least 26 shells for each letter.  Now it’s time to research the words our child should be working on.  Here’s a list of Dolch Words or Fry Words for each grade level from Kindergarten to Third Grade.

Use the words that your child should be working on and write them down on a sheet of paper with your child.  Here’s a blank circle template for printing.  Then attach the circles to a few funs pieces of scrapbook paper to make it colorful.

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Next take the seashells and add all of the letters of the alphabet onto each shell.  Put the shells in a fun container.  We added ours to some colorful cloud dough we created recently.  Sand would be fun too to use in the container.

For the Summer Sight Word activity encourage your child to spell on the sight words using the shells.

It’s time to search for the letters needed to create the site words on your game board.  Create enough words so that you can switch the search around too!

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Extention Ideas

To extend the activity you could have your child write down the words that they find.  Here’s a shell word printable.

For more ideas on how to work with words go check out Amy’s post on Words 3 Ways and Sticky Finger Writing

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmamaFor more Literacy Sea Shell Activities you may enjoy:

kim vij educators spin on it

 

Kim Vij is an early childhood educator and mom of three. She shares her “Educator’s Spin” on parenting issues and how to make everyday moments into learning opportunities at The Educators’ Spin On It and award winning Pinterest Boards. You can find Kim on PinterestFacebookTwitterInstagram & Google +.

 

 

Looking for ways to get kids into summer reading?  Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest Boards

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

 

fyi: affiliate links used in this post for seashells

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

Countdown’s on for the new school year, so I’ve been at work making a new set of lunchbox love notes.

In the past, we’ve covered joke notes, we’ve covered puzzle notes, fun fact notes, and travel inspired notes. We did a closer look notesKindergarten notes, and more jokes.

But this time I really wanted to so something that I think might help the kids in a different way as they move into the new year: positive affirmations for kids.

My girls have seen something similar when we made our Awesome Me boxes a while back, but Owen hasn’t.

And really, boys and girls both can stand to have some reminders of how awesome they are.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Positive Affirmation Notes for Kids–Lunchbox Love:

When I hear the words ‘positive affirmations’ I still can’t help but call to mind the old corny Saturday Night Live skits of Stuart Smalley’s I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

Nerdy. Silly. And soooooo funny.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

 

But as funny as I found–and still find–Stuart Smalley, I still believe that all that positive talk does help.

It really does.

Claude Steele back in the 1980’s focused on the effects of self-affirmation, and research today, though a bit mixed, votes predominantly in favor of the power of positive self-talk.

All kids can benefit from a little dose of positive self-talk.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

Especially as my oldest moves from a tween to a teen, I know she needs to hear that she’s awesome.

As my boy moves from a little guy to a tween (oooooh maaaay gosh. . . ), I know he needs to hear that he’s awesome.

And as my baby moves from a little fish to a bigger fish in the elementary school pond, I know she needs to hear that she’s awesome.

And they all need reminders about how to treat people and how to let others treat them.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

 

So I’m  hoping these Positive Affirmation Notes do just that–for each of them.

I printed three copies of each of the sheets, and there are 24 little notes on two sheets and one blank sheet so I can write in my own.

Though with our other notes, I usually give them all the same note on the same day, with these, I will mix it up–give each kiddo a specific note when it seems they need it most.

And it won’t be an everyday thing–I’ll add some of the jokes here and there, the holiday ones, and ones I write in as we go. The last thing I want them to be is annoyed with them. positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

lunchbox love- positive affirmations for kids _ teachmama.com

 

Here’s the pdf to download and use as you’d like: lunchbox love- positive affirmations for kids _ teachmama.com

Feel free to share.

The more kids who get these in their lunch, in their binders, or on their pillows at night, the better. Right?

 

Want a look at all of our lunchbox looooove notes? Here they are:

Need more awesome Back-to-School lunchy ideas? Definitely check out:

Here’s to a rockstar 2013-2014 school year and many more to come!

fyi: feel free to use the affiliate links below to make your kids’ lunches awesome

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

reading under the stars  teachmama.com.png

sponsored post

 

 

 

reading under the stars | teachmama.comSummer is in full swing, and what better way to really rock it out in the summertime than by camping?

Not for real camping, my friends–I’m talking backyard camping.

In my book, backyard camping counts. Especially if you’re not all that much of an outdoorsy family.

We have been talking about backyard camping for awhile now, so I decided to surprise the kids with a tent.  Not a huge tent, but a 6-person, easy-to-assemble, totally affordable tent.

Because we really rocked it out with our spring break trip to Disneyland, we are laying low this summer, and no biggie beach trip means that we’ve got to be creative with our summertime fun.

So creative we were.

We set up the tent, made some s’mores, and did some reading under the stars until we . . . decided to come back in the house and sleep in our beds.

It’s hard really roughing it with backyard camping.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Backyard Camping and Reading Under the Stars–Summer Reading at its Best:

We invited some friends over during the afternoon for a playdate and a tent set-up. They loved it. Playing in the tent was a huge hit for the whole neighborhood crew.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

The afternoon was spent playing in the tent, so really the kids spent the greater part of the day excited about our ‘camp out’.

They played campout. They had snacks in the tent. They played games in the tent. After dinner, at about 6:30pm, Maddy, Owen, and Cora brought sleeping bags and pillows into the tent along with their EVEREADY® flashlights, lovies and books.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

They knew that part of the reason we were doing our serious backyard campout was because we wanted to have a chance to read under the stars, just like the Scholastic Read Under the Stars summer reading challenge they were doing.

Really, the reading’s been happening all summer. It was the camping that was totally new.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

We had s’mores. We danced a little. We were ready for a campout.

We were all cozy in the tent, teeth brushed, dirty feet tucked into sleeping bags, listening to the crickets and the owls and the distant barking dogs when all heck broke loose.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

The chaos began.

The storm had arrived.

The tides were a’ changing.

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

Cora started crying because the Maddy was too close to her and because the window panel was hanging down by her arm and it wouldn’t stay tucked into the wall.

And then Maddy started getting angry because Cora was not being nice.  And so when Cora yelled, I WANT TO GO SLEEP IN MY BEEEEEDDDDD! Maddy said she wanted to sleep in her own bed, too.

And then Owen said, I want to go inside to sleep too. I don’t want to sleep out here anymore.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

And so yep.

At 9pm, right after my husband had put his feet up and settled comfortably into a show and a snack, thinking his family was out back sleeping peacefully and that he had a quiet house to himself, the troops came marching in.

Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, flashlights, and books in tow, and a lonely tent out back.

Poor confused Brady was happy to have his family in the house again.  Cora was happy, Maddy was happy, Owen was happy, and I was happy. Back in the cool air conditioning, dirty feet in their own beds, flashlights on and open books in hands.

And? The kids spent the entire next day in the tent.

And what I realized is that we’re not failures or big losers for trying the backyard camping thing and not actually following through; we are winners for trying it. Right? I mean, we came close, didn’t we? We kind of had the experience and maybe we’ll try it again?

I don’t know. The cool thing? The kids were reading. Books and summer reading was a natural part of our attempted backyard campout, so that’s what counts.

reading under the stars

Logo

 

Huge and happy thanks to Scholastic for always coming up with cool themes and ideas for their Summer Reading Challenge and for partnering with us for this post series. This year’s Summer Reading theme is Reading Under the Stars, and is powered by EVEREADY®, the maker of batteries and flashlights, to encourage families to discover new and fun ways to explore reading outside this summer.

 

 

fyi: I am happy to share my experience with our backyard campout as part of a sponsored campaign.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three little kinda-campers and summertime readers.

Affiliate links are used within.